Both traditional and contemporary works are part of the collection, originating from the Sub-Saharan and North Arab African regions. Exhibitions are constantly moving from past to current to future exhibitions and showcase all forms of media including sound, watercolor, cloth, and wood carving. Various themes and topics are embodied by these works—the universal presence and influence of water in Currents: Water in African Art, the spiritual, physical, and social essences of the human being in Healing Arts, or regional tribal life through masks and ceremonial jewelry in the retired Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
As quoted by Robbins, the NMAfA was essentially “an education department with a museum attached.” At the museum, trained docents are available to lead tours and educational programs to allow for a more immersive and informative experience. Research and resource centers include the Warren M. Robbins Library, established in 1971 to contribute to the study and research of African visual art; over 50,000 volumes of topics such as pottery, architecture, creative writing, theater, and religion are present in the facility. The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives is another special place containing nearly 450,000 rare and well-preserved maps, engravings, and other artifacts.